Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Ever since I became a fan of Wanda Hendrix in my extreme youth - I'll just let that extremely weird statement sink in - I have wanted to see this, her final Western. Thanks to Amazon Prime, my wish finally came through. But what a disappointment. Not regarding the movie itself (more on that below) but the erstwhile Mrs. Audie Murphy enjoys less than five minutes of screen time as Scott Brady's blonde (!) wife, leaving the remainder of Stage to Thunder Rock in the otherwise capable hands of Marilyn Maxwell.

Anybody who loves Classic Hollywood in general and Classic Hollywood Westerns in particular owes a Thank You to veteran producer A. C. Lyles for his series of, well, "geriatric" westerns featuring fading stars of the past. In addition to the Misses Hendrix and Maxwell and Scott Brady, Thunder Rock also resurrects Barry Sullivan, Allan Jones, John Agar, Keenan Wynn, Robert Lowery and, riding shot gun on the eponymous conveyance, Rex Bell, Jr., and the result is a very well acted compact little oater that holds up very well. The aforementioned performers hung around this long for a reason: they were just plain good competent actors. And none better than the film's true revelation: Lon Chaney, Jr. Playing Marilyn Maxwell's (and Elvis movie starlet Laurel Goodwin's) henpecked paw, Chaney may have been down in his cups while filming (he is literally carrying around said cup for most of the film), but the old trooper creates a remarkably realistic depiction of a relay station operator. But poor Wanda Hendrix, who, we can only hope, enjoyed the trip to the film's Simi Valley location, is wasted in a nothing role.

(Illustration: Scott Brady saying goodbye to wife Wanda Hendrix and poor blind daughter Morgan Brittany.)

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